Looking Toward the Future

Stephen Welsh—a Duluth native, UMD alumnus, current Library Board member, and a retired educator, deputy sheriff, and ski patroller—chose to include a gift for the Duluth Library Foundation in his will to help ensure that our library will continue to thrive for generations to come.

“My bequest will support the library as a vital area resource,” Steve noted. “I am pleased to help perpetuate its many services through my membership in the Legacy Circle.”

We thank Steve for his support of the library through the Legacy Circle. Donor contributions—sustaining gifts or one-time gifts, designated funds, gifts of stock, bequests, and other planned gifts—help ensure the long-term vitality of the Duluth Public Library.

Stephen Welsh, Mayor Emily Larson (with a future reader in her arms), and the baby’s mother at the library.


The Olga Walker Story

In 1964, the Duluth Public Library was notified that one of its regular visitors, Olga Walker, had died and left the library in her will. In fact, Mrs. Walker’s will identified the library as her sole beneficiary. The library was to receive a bequest of more than $50,000.

Library Director Lucille Roemer told the Duluth News Tribune that she “did not know Mrs. Walker,” and that there had been no indication why she left her estate to the library. But, she added, “It is a splendid gift, and the library is most happy to be the recipient of such a large sum.”

Mrs. Walker’s will specified that her money be held in trust for 21 years, allowing the interest earnings to be given to the library. After that, the Library Board could decide what to do with the gift.

In 1986, the Library Board voted that Mrs. Walker’s gift, valued at $83,000 at the time, become the seed money for an endowment to benefit the library in perpetuity, and created the Duluth Library Foundation to manage and grow it. Today, thanks to the contributions of hundreds of library supporters and thoughtful stewardship, that gift has increased to over $2 million.

Little is known about Mrs. Walker. She was born Olga Thompson in Winneshiek County, Iowa, one of three children. Her parents had emigrated from Norway. Olga came to Minnesota with her family as a teenager. She married Clarence Walker, who was originally from Missouri, and they lived in Duluth. Olga was a stenographer for the Army Corps of Engineers. Clarence was a clerk for Kelley-How-Thompson Company, as well as a member of the Order of Scottish Clans in Duluth. They had no children.

What is known is that Mrs. Walker loved the library. Each year the Foundation hosts the Olga Walker Awards & Author event, honoring donors who, like Mrs. Walker, have generously supported the library’s life-changing work. This event is also an opportunity to provide our community the opportunity to engage with an author whose work inspires, educates, and entertains. Past honorees include:

Arthurand Mary Aufderheide
Gilbert Harries
Charles House

Robert and Ruth Ann Eaton
Thomas and Katherine Gibson
Elisabeth C. Mason
Janet Schroeder

John and Elaine Killen
Robert and Ann Mars
Walter and Alyce Rauschenfels

Royal and Karen Alworth
Muriel Cowan
Beverly Ellstrom
Esther Linden

Ellen Marsden
Nathaniel and Melody Rowe
Don and Sally Schilling

Wayne Holmberg
Janet Sklaris
Katharine Coventry

John and Beth Kelly
Dean Casperson and family
Margaret Orlich
Monnie and Lillian Goldfine

Karen Alworth, Esther Linden, and Royal Alworth, 2019 recipients of the Olga Walker Memorial Award.

She Left a Lasting Legacy

Beverly Ellstrom was originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range. As a young adult, she was drawn to Duluth, leaving her home and her mother behind to seek her future. Beverly secured a job at the Duluth News Tribune. For forty-six years, she worked in the accounting department, where she participated in the transition from adding machines and manual typewriters to calculators and personal computers.

Once she retired, Beverly did not slow down. She was an active member of several community groups. She had many friends, and neighbors knew they could count on her for a ride to the doctor or the grocery store. She was close to her mother, Louise. She had no children.

When she died in 2010, Beverly left a bequest to the Duluth Library Foundation. Her generous gift reflected the value she placed on the library and on leaving a legacy. In 2012 a plaque commemorating Beverly and her mother, Louise Ellstrom, was placed on the Foundation Donor Wall at the library.

Beverly’s gift of nearly $69,000 was added to the Duluth Library Foundation’s endowment, where it will continue to generate income for the library in perpetuity. Her gift will help to sustain the life-changing work of the library for generations to come.

Beverley Ellstrom
Yvonne Michaud Novak, Beverly Ellstrom’s personal representative, and Past Foundation president Terry Teich place the memorial plaque on the Foundation donor wall at the Duluth Public Library. Photo © Bob King/Duluth News Tribune.